The Supreme Court on Friday reinstated sacked government employees in their positions causing the employees, who had gathered on Constitution Avenue, to heave a sigh of relief and disperse while raising slogans in favour of the judiciary.
With a majority of four to one, the five-judge bench threw away petitions seeking review of the Judgment that had rendered almost 16,000 government employees jobless though it restored the employees with conditions.
On the eve of his retirement, Justice Mushir Alam on Aug 17 had declared as illegal and unconstitutional a PPP-era law called the Sacked Employees (Reinstatement) Ordinance Act 2010 (SERA) under which a number of people were employed or promoted.
However, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in his note of dissent accepted the petitions and reinstated the employees with certain conditions while emphasising that parliamentary sovereignty or legislative supremacy was the cornerstone of a strong democracy and therefore the judiciary must recognise the central role of the legislature.
The short order, the reasons of which will come later, was announced by Justice Umar Ata Bandial in a packed to capacity Courtroom No. 1.Invoking the original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution read with Article 187, the court while considering the services rendered by the reinstated employees held that the employees who were holding posts on the date of their initial termination of service — from Nov 1, 1996 to Oct 12, 1999 — did not require any aptitude, scholastic or skill test for appointment and they would be reinstated from the date of the judgement under review (Aug 17) in their posts on the same terms and conditions of service applicable on the date of their termination pursuant to the Aug 17 verdict.
Likewise, the employees who require the passing of any aptitude, scholastic or skill test for appointment will also be reinstated from Aug 17 in their posts on the same terms and conditions of service applicable on the date of their termination.
While this may be good news for thousands of people who now find themselves gainfully employed again, it is also a reminder that doling out government jobs as an act of political patronage comes at a heavy cost. The PPP had indulged in such acts and had defended it as a noble thing without realising that jobs are not freebies but entail a steep economic cost to the nation. In addition, government jobs are not meant to be distributed as political gifts to supporters. They must be based on merit because the government can perform well only if it employs the right people for the right jobs. When this basic principle is not followed, the citizen suffers at the end. Given the precarious state of the economy, and the bloated size of the government, it is all the more important that governments pay special attention to the issue of hiring.